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5 Text Message Marketing Ideas for Remarkable Sales

The future is here. Actually, it has been here for a very long time.

And the future is “texting.”

Have you been texting a lot to keep in touch during your time at home? Same!

If you’re like me, you might have one text chain on mute, perhaps with your mom. But she’s the exception (special, as she always is). Because 90% of text messages are opened within three minutes of being received.

Just try to name a marketing channel with a stronger engagement rate – I’ll wait!

Now while I always knew texts were highly engaging, the last thing I’d ever want to do is turn a person’s cellphone into the nightmare that is today’s email inboxes.

When I thought about text message marketing historically, I imagined being interrupted at the dinner table with a totally irrelevant offer: “Reply WIN now to get a lifetime supply of SOMETHING you don’t need.” Yuck!

But then, speaking of dinner, I had to order it.

And I stumbled upon an example of tasteful text marketing: GrubHub, a company that offers seamless text message marketing that enhances their food delivery product. They text you:

  • When your order is on the way
  • When it’s close by
  • To ask if the delivery was on time
  • To ask how your food was
  • How your overall experience was

And nothing about it is a nuisance. Actually it feels like a complete value-add. Basically they let you know that progress is being made. And they make it easy for you to greet the food, which ensures that both your food stays safe and the driver is saved some time. After your delivery, they get information from you that can help other buyers make their purchase decisions. They do it all by asking just one question at a time in a very natural progression, as though you’re having a conversation. Plus, they provide short-hand answers to prompt you and keep it quick:

“When was your order delivered? 1 – Early 2 – On time 3 – Late?
Was the food good? (Yes/No)
Was your order correct? (Yes/No)
Rate your overalls experience from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Tell us your thoughts on this restaurant.
Thanks! We appreciate your help. Signing off, Grubhub.”

This type of surprise and delight marketing communication is a win, because it’s wonderfully helpful for the recipient and the business: 47 percent of people who respond to SMS messages go on to buy something. So one thing this pandemic has taught me is that text message marketing can be incredibly powerful, when done right.

Here are a few ways to get creative with good text message marketing.

1. Personalize the message.

Include the customer’s first name. Or mention specifics about their activity, such as the name of the restaurant they ordered from or a recent purchase. Or call out something special about their physical location such as the local weather or a sports team victory. Or call out any shared interest they’ve openly expressed.

2. Make the message about an action the user took.

Provide a shipping arrival update, an appointment reminder, a reservation reminder, or a webinar confirmation. Or let them know something they considered is about to go out of stock. “Still interested in our product? Only 3 left. Get yours now: LINK.” Or allow them to sign up to receive notifications when a sold out item comes back in stock. Or let them know there’s a sale on an item on their wishlist. There are even whole businesses cropping up concentrating on just this one area, for example:

Example of text message marketing service to close sales

3. Keep it exclusive.

Offer text message specials as a service to your best customers. 75 percent of people targeted by SMS marketing don’t mind receiving offers. And something as simple as, “Flash sale starts Friday at 8AM ET. Get early access now.” can help ensure your most loyal customers get a chance at the items they love the most before they sell out. Or create a weekly happy hour with great deals to keep traffic flowing to your store during low times, only available to certain customers.

4. Share news via text messages.

Let readers know when you publish a new post similar to ones they’ve engaged with in the past, at time of day when they’re likely to be in reading mode – if they have subscribed to that topic. Include an actionable tip from the article in the text. (And, to be clear, no I’m not giving you permission to send random article alerts like Apple News!) Also, celebrate niche holidays with special content so that you don’t engage customers when everyone else is (who needs another love note on Valentine’s Day!?). Find more unique holidays that align with your business—such as National Beer Day if you’re a distillery, or Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day if you’re a clothing brand.

5. Learn from your customers to help other customers.

Texts are an easy way to get feedback. Run your NPS through text by asking, “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend?” Ask for a review of a recent purchase, what they wish you sold more of, why they joined, etc. You could even offer timely customer support via text.

Master the medium.

Text message effects are a fun way to deliver a message with pizzazz – or more specifically: confetti and balloons – on iPhones. Plus, you can use gifs and emojis (6 million are sent a day!) to blend right in with communication norms.

In terms of when to send, while studies have shown that 4-5 messages a month is a good cadence, I’d cater the number of messages based on the customer’s actions: no interaction equals no more texts that month.

And send at the time that makes the most sense. Just use your noggin! Texts sent mid-day tend to work best because people aren’t with their families or busy commuting, but if you’re offering a breakfast deal mid-day isn’t going to help you.

Let’s check out a few more examples of text message marketing so that you can get an idea of the capabilities this unique medium offers.

Starbucks uses SMS marketing:

Starbucks uses SMS to delight customers with trivia games, quirky memes, and personalized rewards.

“Pop quiz! What year did Frappuccino debut at Starbucks? The first 100 correct responders win the Great Gatsby soundtrack.”

“The 12 days of gifting are coming to participating Starbucks stores. With a new gift every day, there’s something for everyone on your list. Text XXX to XXX to get these special offers straight to your phone.

AMC Theatres’ text message marketing:

AMC Theatres uses SMS to keep its Stubs club members up to date on their rewards points, free movie screenings, special event invites, concession discounts, and movie swag giveaways.

For a campaign for “a coupon for $1 off of soft drinks” the SMS message that consumers were sent contained a time-sensitive link to a landing page with a QR code that could be scanned by an AMC Theatres employee at the concession stand. The landing page also included a list of instructions that explains how cashiers accept the coupon. Additionally, the offer could be stored to the Passbook app for consumers with an iPhone. Basically, make it as easy to remember and act upon your offer as possible to keep providing a great experience.

A CVS text messaging marketing example:

And finally, CVS does some great text message marketing by notifying you when your prescriptions are ready to be picked up, and asking if you want to refill prescriptions. That helpful text message marketing is just what the doctor ordered!

Now that you’re convinced there’s some opportunity to do text message marketing and do no harm, here are three text message marketing tool options:

  1. Used by ESPN and FedEx, SlickText provides a advanced features and no contract. They’re known for their great customer service.
  2. Textedly offers a 14-day free trial and they’re trusted by Lyft, Chick-fil-A, and the New York Yankees.
  3. Twilio which is a little more geared towards developers, lets you give your web and mobile apps the power to exchange messages of any variety, from chat to SMS.

So that’s the scoop! What’s old is new again: 97% of Americans send or receive at least one text per week, bruh. Don’t miss out on this fabulous form of conversational marketing.

Up next, learn more about another marketing unicorn, especially during this time: direct mail marketing.

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By Megan Mitzel

I'm the wearer of overalls behind the marketing advice website Marketing Overalls. I'm also a senior marketing director with more than ten years of experience leading acquisition and lifecycle marketing at successful startups. Before that, I got a business degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. Before that, I owned a seashell shop. And that's the tea on me.